Nokia Roars Back with the Upmarket Designer N9 Smartphone

Oct 11, 2011


This Article Is From Australian IT:

I USUALLY take home review gadgets to test and my family often has a peek, too. Sometimes they're not interested, but with the Nokia N9 smartphone my problem was getting it back. They loved it at first sight.

If this won't-give-it-back factor is an indication, the N9 - or MeeGo - should do well. People will notice it when they see it in stores.

But Nokia is releasing it in Australia just as the iPhone 4S goes on sale and - given its $799 recommended retail price for the 16GB model - it faces a tough battle for market share.

The N9 is many things. It represents the end of years of complacency, when Nokia's response to the iPhone challenge was to pump out more phones with its ageing Symbian operating system.

Nokia went into market free-fall as a result.

The N9 also is Nokia's leap of faith. It's a different phone with a different operating system, as it turns out, one of a kind, as Nokia says there will be no more MeeGo operating system phones.

Coming in blue, pink and black casing for 16GB versions and black for the 64GB model, the N9 has a very bright, 480 by 854 pixel, 3.9-inch Amoled multitouch screen that is usable outdoors.

At 135 grams, the N9 is six grams lighter than the iPhone 4S. It is capable of download speeds of 14.4Mbps with HSPA protocol, and has a fast, but not groundbreaking, 1GHz Cortex A8 processor. It is not dual-core. Don't expect to augment the phone's memory as there is no SD card slot.

Having said that, it has a great camera that shoots at 8, 7, 6 and 3 megapixels depending on aspect ratio, and loads of settings - flash, red-eye, white balance, light (ISO) levels, face detection, geotagging, scene selection and autofocus.

Video recording is 720p at 30 frames per second, rather than full high-definition. One minor annoyance is the flap on the unit's top covering the micro USB. It's awkward to open, but you'll need to do so when charging.

The N9 is a touch-only device, bar the home button on the right and volume controls. The N9's menu system is well designed and, in the main, you don't need hard navigation controls, although I did occasionally yearn for a permanently back button.

MeeGo navigation, however, is more intuitive than anything Nokia has produced before and the screens are attractive. It supports multitasking and the phone is fast and responsive.

There are three home screens. The apps list looks like an iPhone screen, but scrolls vertically while the notifications screen displays a combined social network newsfeed. The third screen displays open apps. Pressing it lets you close one or all apps.

You can scroll horizontally between home screens with your fingers. Note that home screens appear in portrait mode only.

Moving from an open app back to a home screen requires just a gentle upwards flick, in a style reminiscent of the Hewlett-Packard TouchPad. You can set the phone to close apps entirely by flicking downwards.

The list of basic apps is similar to an iPhone, so if you have used one you'll find configuring an N9 easy. You can add accounts for Gmail, Microsoft Exchange, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Nokia and regular email.

Mailboxes are displayed individually or combined, while contacts can be dragged in from another device by Bluetooth or from a SIM card. Unfortunately, I could not import my Google Gmail contacts, only Google contacts from Google Talk.

Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Angry Birds are among preloaded apps. The N9 has a front-facing camera, but there is no video calling for Skype. Nokia is promising to activate front-camera use in a software update.

The N9 is one of the first phones in Australia to include Near Field Communication, but you cannot use your phone as a wave-and-pay device for credit card transactions. Instead, Nokia's NFC links two touching phones by Bluetooth, dispensing with the need to pair devices.

Nokia says a software update before the end of the year will make NFC usable at new JCDecaux NFC-enabled billboards to be rolled out across Australia. You'll be able to tap an NFC-enabled bill board with your N9 to download information about the advertised product.

The N9 links to the newly renamed Nokia Store, and there's a repository of apps available for it. But don't expect anything like the 200,000-plus Android apps or 500,000-plus iPhone apps in Nokia's store.

It also links to Nokia's Ovi Music store, which the company says has 16 million tracks costing about $1.49 each.

Nokia devices including this N9 come with Nokia maps and turn-by-turn car navigation. Its maps originally came from Navteq, which Nokia acquired in 2007 for about $US8.1 billion.

The advantage of Nokia Maps, compared with Google Maps, is the ability to download for an entire country in one go. Navigating a street, therefore, does not require a data connection, only GPS. Nokia says maps for 90 countries are available free for the N9.

In all, the N9 is an original, up-market designer phone. It is attractive, has a bright screen and a slickly designed and easy to navigate user interface.

It has a fast, but not state-of-the-art, processor, is not complicated, yet has ample functionality for many people.

Don't expect the N9 to replicate the flexibility of an iPhone or Android device, made possible by the vast array of apps available on those platforms. Nevertheless, it is one of the more original devices on the market this year.

RATING: 8/10

PRICE: $799 for 16GB, $949 for 64GB through stores or on plans through Telstra, Optus and Vodafone. Available this week.

Source Australian IT


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